The last time I was accompanied to the airplane gate by my mom was before September 11th, and I remember being a little girl walking through the airport with her as she tried to contain her tears and wiping mascara from under her eyes, smeared by the rebels that snuck over her eyelashes. It changes a departure, being close to someone until the exact moment that you have to board or miss your plane – you realize how important that human contact and reassurance is before your flight.
Especially when you’re absolutely petrified, like I am today.
I don’t know whether I want to scream or cry or load up on drugs to put myself to sleep on the plane or just get wired on caffeine. There is a part of me – the sensible, logical part – that knows I probably won’t get a second look. But then I think of the ridiculous amount of stamps in my passport in and out of Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and Guatemala, and I wonder who is going to catch me and ask me why I have been traveling in the same loop through the same countries for the past 18 months. What do I tell them? I’m not working, I’m not a TL, I just like to tag along? I have Tucan information in my checked baggage – what if they question me as to why I have so many copies of maps and questionnaires? What if I am tagged during the tour, and when I start my second loop I get stopped and questioned again? Would they deport me? Throw me in jail? Take away my passport? What would Tucan do if I can’t be there tomorrow to start the tour? Would they switch me and Jen? Would I have to head back to Guatemala, especially after saying all of my goodbyes?
At the same time, the excitement is bubbling inside me as I imagine walking along the Malecon and sitting to watch the waves in front of Hotel Nacional or the USS Maine monument. I see my feet retracing the paths that I walked before and try to recapture the feelings from that time – the person I was just over 7 years ago. What did I want then? What was I aspiring towards? Did I have any idea that this is where I would find myself years later? No, I thought I would be making money, living in the US, have a boyfriend… As Jason put it the other night, “everything changes”. I don’t quite know what he meant by that, but true it is.
I remember missing Jimmi, my friends and family, and good food, but I know that I would not trade my time in Havana with those other 17 people who I grew and changed with for anything in the world. I may complain about student loans now and wonder why I chose to go to a private university – which I’ll literally be paying forever – but if nothing else it took me to Cuba and to Spain; unforgettable, incomparable experiences and friendships that have withstood the test of time. We don’t have to talk every day to always carry with us the fact that we shared something special and unique together – we saw “El Jefe” speak, spent muggy nights in dingy streets wandering to a midnight concert, learned truly Cuban ways of life, including playing ‘domino’ and drinking Havana Club, and know that it was almost a “golden time”.
I’m so scared right now. Deep breaths… Time to get a(nother) new watch at Duty Free… Let’s hope this one doesn’t break in less than a week!
Thank you all for your love and support!! I will be sending very short updates via facebook when I get the chance, but internet is massively expensive in Cuba (although not so bad when you think of prices in Roatan and Caye Caulker) and I plan on spending as little time in front of the computer as possible!